Wild about Whisky in Dullstroom – A Spirits Tasting Adventure

Words: Crush

What do three friends do when they suddenly find themselves with an open space filled with bottles of wine and whisky? They open a whisky tasting experience, of course. That’s the very short version of what is obviously a far more complex story but in essence, this is how Wild about Whisky came about.

What do we do with all this whisky?

In 2005, friends, Steve Adams, Eve Gunns and Dave Gunns found themselves with an empty property that had been vacated by retail tenants who had left behind wine and whisky. The trio happened upon the idea of whisky tastings as opposed to wine tastings and the fledgeling idea for a new business emerged from there.

The Highlands of Mpumalanga

It happened to be that the property they owned was in Dullstroom, which bears remarkable similarities to the Scottish Highlands. In fact, the area is known as the “Highlands” because of the altitude but in many aspects, it also looks and feels like the Highlands of Scotland.

Wild about Whisky is located in a mist belt and that, combined with the lower temperatures, makes it not too dissimilar to the Scottish climate.

Fly fishing is one of the famous leisure activities in the Dullstroom area not unlike the trout and salmon fishing in Scotland… so all in all, ideal conditions to create a whisky bar.

Wild about Whisky

We asked one of the partners, Dave Gunns, how the trio turned a passion for a dram into a business; he told us that a trip to Scotland in 2006 resulting in the group returning so “juiced up” on not just the whisky distilleries and their various products but also the traditions, culture and history of Scotland. They wanted to share this newfound passion and knowledge with South Africans.

Currently, there are +- 1785 different whiskies, of which 285 are available in the Wild about Whisky retail section and online.

Aside from whisky, they also have an additional 110 gins, rums, brandies, tequilas, vodkas and wines available as well. So if you don’t consider yourself a whisky drinker, you’ll still be in very good company.

Q&A with Dave Gunns

Can you tell us a bit about how a whisky tasting works at Wild about Whisky?

The tasting menu is comprehensive and large, offering 48 different flights. Each flight comprises 6 x half tots on a dedicated tasting mat. There is also the option of immersing yourself in the guilty pleasures of 12 x whisky and Belgian chocolate pairings.

A customer arrives and is introduced to the menu and how the options work. Once the tasting/s have been selected, the spirit is then poured and the mat handed to the client for perusal.

A staff member or management will then host the experience, explaining in detail how the spirit is made and specific information about each distillery represented on the mats and then shown the best way to taste and get the most out of the whisky.

If someone is not a ‘whisky drinker’ per se, will they still enjoy the WaW experience?

I believe so because we also offer tasting experiences in rums, tequilas, gins and brandy and we have a menu that offers mouthgasms… 12 specific pairings of half a shot of whisky with a Belgian chocolate truffle.

What is the ultimate thing that you want guests to experience when they visit WaW?

The realisation that spirits are really not what they seem and that there is a whole world out there of new taste sensations just waiting to be explored. We strive to change people’s lives and perceptions.

Do you go on sourcing missions overseas to find the best whiskies?

We do, every year, but it is always a three-fold mission… finding new whiskies, attending distillery masterclasses and even working at some distilleries to further our knowledge in the industry.

Do each of you have your own all-time favourite whisky or does this change? What is your current go-to?

Each of us has our own favourite dram and that can change perhaps with the time of day, what you have just eaten and your general mood.

My current everyday drinking go-to would be Naked Grouse, a blended malt made by the Famous Grouse family.

Traditionally whiskies are from Ireland, Scotland, the States etc but there has been a growth in other markets such as Japan – how do you rate these whiskies?

We rate them highly. Not only Japan but Taiwan and India are arguably making some of the best whisky in the world. The processes are all based on the Scottish industry, to the extent that many of these Asian distilleries have been mentored by the Scots every step of the way. Bearing in mind that we are talking about cultures that will take a concept and perfect it.

What is it that you personally love about whisky?

Not just the complex flavour profiles but the industry itself is enmeshed in the traditions and cultural history of Scotland. The whisky stories, the myths and the legends that today have an impact on a global scale.

One of the whiskies you stock is Highland Park; can you tell us about your relationship with this specific distillery?

Highland Park has always been a high profile distillery for us. Situated in the Orkney Isles, the distillery consistently produces classic maritime whiskies, lightly peated, exceptional casking methods and a whisky that is full flavoured, complex, salty and exceptionally well balanced.

What sets this whisky apart from other Scotch whiskies?

They appear not to compromise in any stage of their whisky making process. Their expressions of whiskies once released and reviewed often have the word “perfect” in the tasting notes…

Highland Park Viking Honour

VIKING HONOUR is the heart and soul of Highland Park. It reflects the unique culture of the REMOTE ISLAND HOME ON ORKNEY – part of Scotland yes, but originally belonging to a vast VIKING KINGDOM.

At Highland Park, they honour the spirit of their VIKING ANCESTORS. They share their PRIDE, INTEGRITY and FIERCE INDEPENDENCE, and that’s why they continue to distil their AWARD-WINNING WHISKY to the same EXACTING STANDARDS introduced in 1798 by their founder, Magnus Eunson, a descendant of those early Viking settlers.

The result is an INTENSELY BALANCED Single Malt Scotch Whisky – a perfect Harmony of AROMATIC SMOKY PEAT,  and the flavours of SWEET HEATHER HONEY and RICH FRUIT CAKE. Smooth, full and rounded, it’s a whisky that truly stands apart.

Visiting Wild about Whisky

To taste Highland Park, plus other whiskies, rums, vodkas and gins sourced from around the globe, make sure you include a visit to Wild about Whisky on your next trip to Mpumalanga. Dave and his team are keen to share their vast knowledge and passion for spirits with you.

Wild about Whisky
Auldstone House, 506 Naledi Drive, Dullstroom
Tel: +27 013 254 0202

Mon – Thur: 09:00 – 17:00
Fri: 09:00 – 19:00
Sat: 09:00 – 18:00
Sun: 09:00 – 16:00

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